OCCAR (Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation), on behalf of the French and Spanish Armament General Directorate, the DGA (Direction Générale de l’Armement) and the DGAM (Dirección General de Armamento y Material) has awarded a contract to Airbus Helicopters for the development, production, and initial in-service support of the Tiger MkIII attack helicopter upgrade programme. The contract includes the upgrade of 42 aircraft for France (with the possibility to add another 25 helicopters) and 18 for Spain. In addition, the contract provides the possibility for Germany to later join the Tiger MkIII programme. The first prototype is scheduled for an inaugural flight in 2025. First delivery to the French Armament General Directorate (DGA) will take place in late 2029 followed by a first delivery to Spain in 2030. Development and upgrade work will be conducted in Airbus Helicopters facilities in Albacete (Spain), Marignane (France) and Donauwörth (Germany). Tiger MkIII is a comprehensive upgrade of the European attack helicopter’s systems. Proven in combat, the Tiger is difficult to detect, highly agile, and highly survivable, something operators will continue to benefit from with the MkIII upgrade. The new standard will allow the platform to be connected to the digital battlefield in order to perform manned-unmanned teaming as well as share tactical information in real time.
“The Tiger MkIII programme will provide a European answer to the need for a state-of-the-art attack helicopter for the decades to come. With this upgrade, the Tiger will remain an essential and modern asset to its armies and reinforce defence cooperation in Europe,” said Bruno Even, Airbus Helicopters CEO. He added: “The Tiger MkIII will have no equivalent in the world for high intensity operations and will further improve the connectivity, precision, and fire power capabilities of the current Tiger”.
It will also provide an unrivaled range of weapons (turret gun, laser-guided rockets and missiles) and renewed detection and targeting capabilities. The integration of state-of-the art avionics will reduce the crew’s workload and enable them to be fully focused on mission execution. The Tiger MkIII standard configuration will include the integration of the Safran Strix NG sights, the Thales FlytX avionics suite, the Topowl DD helmet-mounted sight display, an Indra IFF upgrade, Thales GNSS, and Safran’s inertial navigation system. The communication suite will be upgraded with Thales’ Contact/Synaps radio and data links dedicated to manned/unmanned teaming. Moreover, for Spain Link16 and SATCOM functionalities will be included. The Spanish Tiger MkIII will be equipped with a battlefield management system and countermeasures provided by Indra, whereas the French Tiger MkIII will be equipped with a battlefield management system by ATOS and countermeasures provided by Thales. The new weapon package for France will include the MBDA MAST-F (Future Tactical Air-to-Surface Missile) and Mistral 3 air-to-air missile. For Spain, new capabilities will include 70mm guided rockets and a new air to ground missile.
The Tiger is a four-blade, twin-engine attack helicopter which first entered service in 2003. It is manufactured by Airbus Helicopters (formerly Eurocopter), the successor company to Aérospatiale’s and DASA’s respective helicopter divisions, which designate it as the EC665. Following their languages, in Germany it is known as the Tiger; in France and Spain it is called the Tigre. Development of the Tiger started during the Cold War, and it was initially intended as an anti-tank helicopter platform to be used against a Soviet ground invasion of Western Europe. During its prolonged development period the Soviet Union collapsed, but France and Germany chose to proceed with the Tiger, developing it instead as a multirole attack helicopter. It achieved operational readiness in 2008. The Tiger has the distinction of being the first all-composite helicopter developed in Europe; even the earliest models also incorporate other advanced features such as a glass cockpit, stealth technology, and high agility to increase its survivability. Improved variants have since entered service, outfitted with more powerful engines and compatible with a wider range of weapons. Since the type’s introduction to service, Tigers have been used in combat in Afghanistan, Libya, and Mali.